One year of Turkish occupation in Afrin

A year ago today the Turkish army started its attacks on the Afrin region. The attacks were to open the way to the land invasion carried out by Turkey and its mercenary allies.

In Afrin, a human tragedy has been taking place before the eyes of the world. Cases of destruction, kidnapping, ransom, sexual violence and the systematic destruction of the nature are increasing day by day.

Since 18 March, the northern Syrian canton of Afrin remains occupied by the Turkish military and jihadist militias. For a year now, reports of victims of torture, looting, robbery, kidnapping and violent repression have not stopped. Many people who did not want to leave Afrin during the evacuation in March had to flee later due to the atrocities of the occupying forces.

The Turkish state attacked Afrin from the air and on the ground starting from 20 January. Militias that originated from al Qaeda, such as al-Nusra or the Islamic State (IS), were mixed into the groups of the so-called "Free Syrian Army" and led the occupation operation of Turkey on Afrin. Men, women and children were killed indiscriminately. After the Salafist groups marched into Afrin city on March 18, the destruction of the symbols of self-government and the plundering of the city began. The world powers, the US, the EU and the UN, who themselves feared the spread of the grassroots model of democracy, have agreed to the massacres, killings, looting and evictions through their silence.

The Turkish Republic president called the plundering and murdering militias in the neo-Ottoman style "National Forces." These militias were charged with changing the demographics of the region through massacres, expulsions, plundering and occupation.

As the world closes its eyes to the daily growing crimes in the city, those who refused to leave Afrin were forced to flee after March 18 by means of torture, repression, kidnapping and murder. In the place of the escaped population of Afrin, the FSA militiamen and their families evacuated from Ghouta in line with an agreement with Russia were settled there. There are such 41,000 people and the settlement policy is still ongoing. Ghouta militiamen are jihadists from the Faylaq al-Rahman, Jaisal al-Islam, Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham groups. They also began to terrorize the remaining people in Afrin and to loot anything left as "spoils of war". Those who oppose have been tortured and abducted, while graveyards, sacred and historic places were devastated and ancient objects were stolen and sold. The Kurdish language was banned and people were forced to use the Arabic and Turkish languages. The hanging of Turkish flags and Erdoğan pictures was made mandatory. In particular, Alevi and Yazidi settlements were completely devastated.

Attacks on cultural memory included the destruction of;

Ain Dara ancient settlement which was built before 1300 B.C. near the village of Girê Darê,

The Hurrian site Nebî Hûrî or Cyrrhus built in 2500 B.C., recognized by UNESCO as a place of protection in the Middle East

Roman church in the village of Kalutê about thirty kilometers south of Afrin,

a castle, a church and many other historical buildings from Roman times in the village of Elbîzka located 40 kilometers northwest of Afrin,

historic buildings from the Mitanni period in the village of Kolpe, 15 kilometers in the southeast of Afrin.

While the millennia-old historical buildings in Afrin were deliberately destroyed, pieces of objects and structures were stolen by "FSA" members and sold in Turkey. The majority of the objects were taken to Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. So far, about 16,000 historical objects from Afrin have reportedly been taken to Turkey. The director of the Syria Museum, Mehmud Hemûd, says that the stolen pieces must be more than 16,000 and explains that the "Stolen Objects Investigation Committee" has not yet been able to produce a final count.

The occupation forces also destroyed religious sites, which include;

The Şêx Zêd cemetery in the Zêdiyê district of Afrin,

Şehîd Seydo Cemetery in Jindires,

The cemetery of Rajo,

The tomb of Dr. Nurî Dersimi on the road to Meydankê.

In Afrin and the surrounding area, twelve Yazidi cemeteries were devastated. Military checkpoints were built on the destroyed cemeteries which are; the Şêx Berekat cemetery near Basufan, the Şêx Rikab cemetery near Şadiriyê, the Şêx Elî cemetery in Basufan, the Çelxane cemetery near Qîbarê, the Şêx Kursi cemetery near Atme town of Idlib, the Şêx Semis Adiya cemetery near Qîbarê, the Barse Xatûn cemetery near Qestel Cindo, the Şêx Seyda cemetery near Feqîra, the Bîr Cefer cemetery near Meşla, the Şêx Xerbî cemetery in Sinka and Hogir cemetery near Cirne.

At the Şêx Berekat Cemetery, the Turkish military has built a base.

The Yazidis and Alevites remaining in Afrin are forced to convert to Islam. Those who refuse are attacked, tortured, insulted and robbed. 22 mainly Yazidi villages in Afrin were completely destroyed by the Turkish military and its militias and declared as restricted areas. Mosques are being built in these villages, according to reports.

Names of the 22 villages around Afrin where 25 thousand Yazidis live together with Muslims are as follows; Basûfanê, Feqîra, Elî Qîna, Qestel Cindo, Qîbarê, Xezawiye, Buric Ebdalo, Qitmê, Ên Darê, Tirindê, Sînka, Kefer Zêt, Îska, Şadîr, Kîmarê, Çeqela, Aşka Rojhilat, Baê, Qoçma, Qîle and Cindirês.

Turkish army has reportedly built bases in two of these villages where only Yazidis live, Elî Qîna and Qestel Cindo.

The nature was also heavily damaged by the occupation forces in Afrin.

During one year period, it is guessed that more than 9 thousand trees have been burned or cut down across Afrin territory. Historical places were looted, historical artifacts -common heritage of humanity- were plundered and sent abroad, and an area of over 5 hectares was set on fire.

According to the local sources in Afrin, the occupation forces took down the power pylons along the road between Mabata and Shiye districts. In addition, electricial wires were also stolen.

The invaders have cut down hundreds of olive trees to open roads leading to Afrin from the border villages in Shiye and Jindires districts.

The occupation forces set fire to dozens of olive trees and large forest areas on Mount Qaziqlê in Jindires district and on the hill in Mahmudiyah neighborhood in Afrin city center.

The invaders also continue looting the olive harvest in Afrin territory. Afrin Canton Agriculture Committee executives stated that the invaders have confiscated 90% of the olive harvest in the region, and this equals to USD 100 million.

The invaders have stolen the olives in Bilbile and Rajo districts. Accordingly, Asîfet al-Shemal, Ahrar al-Sharqiya and Sultan Murad gangs are looting the olives together with their families.

The mercenaries also seize the olive oil produced by the local people. Fırqat al-Hamza gangs take 1000 Syrian Lira ransom for every can of olive oil from the families.

During this period, the occupation forces have abducted 2,350 civilians. The aftermath of 835 of these, 139 of whom are women, remains unknown.

Names of the schools and streets in Afrin were among the primary targets of the Turkification policy carried out during the occupation. Posters of Turkish President Erdogan and flags of the Turkish state are waving along the streets and roads in Shiye district.

The Turkish state deepens the societal and cultural assimilation policies in Afrin every day and imposes Turkish language and the Turkish identity upon people to further the assimilation and ethnic cleansing.

The Turkish flags hanging everywhere in Afrin are symbols of the invasion in the city. The invading state has started to put up signs in Turkish and Arabic for all institutions in the city, and aims to eradicate Kurdish through such practices.

As part of these practices reminiscent of the Eastern Reformation Plan of the time, all street names have been changed to Turkish. The Kawa the Revolutionary statue that was the symbol of the city was taken down and the invading Turkish soldiers and their allied gangs changed the name of the crossing where the statue stood to “Olive Branch”. Wetanî Crossing was changed to “Recep Tayyip Erdogan Crossing”.

The invading state sent Turkish language educational materials to schools, the fundamental institutions used as tools in assimilation. The invaders are forcing Arab and Kurdish children to learn Turkish, and have banned the Kurdish and Arabic languages.

The Turkish state’s assimilation and ethnic cleansing attacks are not limited to putting up Erdogan posters and forcing Turkish language in education and daily life. Another proof of the forced Turkification is the Turkish ID cards given out to people of Afrin that show them as “foreigners”.

The situation is particularly challenging for women. According to reports, dozens of girls and women have been abducted so far in the Afrin city which was invaded on March 18. Those abducted are being held in some houses near the Vilayat Street in the city center, and subjected to systematic sexual assaults by Turkish soldiers.